Artist: Scotty McCreery
Title: Christmas with Scotty McCreery
Label: Mercury Nashville / 19 Records / Interscope

How is Scotty McCreery the only "American Idol" winner yet to release a full-length holiday album? Plenty of finalists have done so before, but this is the first of its kind from an actual champ. Not surprisingly, Christmas with Scotty McCreery opened big on the Billboard Top 200 at No. 4, making it the first breakthrough seasonal project of 2012. 

Given the formulaic standard of most Idol-related offerings, it's also no shock that the deep-voiced nineteen-year-old's good musical tidings are duly predictable yet tolerable. But since Christmas albums are now as abundant as tree ornaments there should be no harm queuing up Scotty at this year's parties. And revelers will have a fun new game on their hands trying to sing along in that low range McCreery occupies so well.

In the spirit of Idol judges, we're obligated to discuss song selection and arrangement in relation to Christmas with Scotty McCreery, right? He gives "Let It Snow" and "Jingle Bells" the right dose of fiddle and flash, country swing and swagger. "Holly Jolly Christmas" rollicks along like an early Dwight Yoakam hit perfectly decorated with that thick Telecaster guitar sound. It makes for a well-chosen trio of upbeat numbers, indeed.

Scotty grew up singing in church not too long ago; so there's an authenticity in his mildly countrified take on "Mary Did You Know" (with banjo) and the simple "O Holy Night" (refreshing when sung by a baritone, with less emphasis on the song's big high note).

New holiday tracks "Christmas in Heaven" and "Christmas Comin' Round Again" have a warm family glow about them. The former pines for lost loved ones at this emotional time (Is there snow falling down on the streets of gold / are you singing with angels "Silent Night"?) while the mandolin-brightened latter sings of earthly reconciliations (Hallelujah! / there's forgiveness in the wind / it's time to let go and let love in).

This kid knows how to have fun as well on the closing "Santa Claus Is Back in Town," the song he loved best on Elvis Christmas. McCreery captures its blues-rock charm and throws in a verse of "See See Rider" for good measure. Here's a project that manages to honor the King of Kings as well as the king of rock and roll!

*This Review First Published 10/31/2012